A PATIENT group which has held health bosses to account for five years will be disbanded and replaced by next year.

The Oxfordshire LINk has carried out surveys and championed patients’ rights since it was set up in 2008.

It has been responsible for examinations of the county’s care homes and looked at the state of hospital food in Oxfordshire’s main hospitals.

In April, the group will be replaced by a new group called HealthWatch Oxfordshire, which will have similar responsibilities, but more influence over how health care is delivered locally.

Last year Oxfordshire LINk lost two members of its team and has seen its budget cut.

LINk chief executive Linda Watson said: “For some months we have been preparing for the new HealthWatch arrangements, carefully staying abreast of the political decisions that will affect what will be required, and carefully considering how to create a system that will work best for Oxfordshire.

“Whatever the system, we must remember that it’s patients and the wider public who are at the heart of it, and it’s they who we’re here to serve.”

LINks were established in April 2008 and are made up of individuals and community groups who volunteer to improve health and social care services through consultation events and surveys.

The new HealthWatch organisations are being set up across the country as part of the radical changes to the NHS.

Chairman of Oxfordshire LINk Susan Butterworth and the deputy chairman Anita Higham are members of the HealthWatch steering group.

The new groups, which will be funded by local authorities, will have more ‘teeth’ than the LINks, and will provide a complaints advocacy service.

They can report concerns about quality of health to a national body, HealthWatch England, which can recommend the Care Quality Commission take action.

Jacquie Pearce-Gervis, chairman of Patient Voice in Oxfordshire, backed the new group, saying: “We welcome HealthWatch and we hope it will be an opportunity for patients to have a say in their health and wellbeing.”